Editor’s Note: This is Part II of a two-part series. You can read Part I here.
So now I was even with one victory and defeat. You’d perhaps think it was over… but it was not. Jeff Patterson lived on a ranch. He was strong and fearless. He was never seen without his John Deere cap on. He was never seen without his can of Copenhagen in his right back pocket, as he was right-handed, Jeff was. He was always seen with boots and jeans, and he was always ready and willing to dish out an ass-whooping to me from his horn of plenty of beatings.
I resigned to the probability that these would be forthcoming throughout my senior high school year, and I was sore afraid. We were classmates in woodshop. Why couldn’t I have had him in American Literature where nothing but the pallid fear of paper cuts abounded? Instead, I was surrounded by an army of the finest John Deere. A classmate of mine offered this:
“George, the next time Jeff messes with you just look him square in the eye and tell him to phuk off!”
And the next time didn’t take long to come.
“What’s new, punk?” Jeff said to me one day in the woodshop. And he flicked me hard on the forehead with his thumb and forefinger. Man, was than that really supposed to hurt that much I thought? Then came my finest hour:
“You know what, Jeff… phuk off — phuk the PHUK off!” There we stood momentarily in a blank-faced stare. Finally, Jeff reach toward the nearest table and secured a long thin morsel of pine, which he laid across my face several times… with gusto! From the floor I stood, brushed off the sawdust from mes pantalons, and grabbed the nearest bigger stick. The stick I selected was center pine which is a whole lot harder than knotty pine.
Jeff looked horrified. I wasn’t sure if it was because of me; I had never seen him scared before. It was as if a knave hand entered the King’s court and announced “Let the games begin!” followed by two sharp claps of his hands. That vision in my head did tickle my fancy so as to pull out the corners of my mouth toward my ears in a Rictus of grins, doubtless emanating all the ferocity of a Glasgow smile.
And outside the woodshed in the small courtyard there came to be a modest marble obelisk with the following inscription on it:
“In Memory of Our Fellow Student, Jeffery Patterson, who on this day in the Year of our Lord 1978, got his redneck honkey ass whipped not once, not twice, but thrice by a student of a much gentler, milder stock and disposition.
I was ordered to the nurse’s office (as if she were supposed to actually be awake in her office.) I maintained my composure as best as I could while she fumbled around with aspirin and records, and proceeded to construct a replica on my face and head with the most outlandishly inefficient bandage scheme:
“Gawd, nurse Martha… don’t you guys practice these head bandage rituals on bowling balls or something before you migrate to humans?
“No, yours is my first.”
“TA-DOW, I’ll give you that one, Nurse!”
From her office, I went into the boys’ bathroom, leaned inside, and plucked the Rube Goldberg off of my head and into the trash. Sure as I turned about to leave I ran smack into Nurse Martha:
“Young man, WHERE are your dressings.”
“Uh, they were so good that I’m all healed up — can you believe it??”
At home that night I sat on my bed sulking over the day. My dad came in to check on me, saw the blood and bruises, and made his deduction:
“Son, you win some; you lose some. There is honor in standing some ground so tenuously… but it is yours so you will stand! I’m sorry, truly sorry you are beaten and sobbing.”
“No, Dad… it’s not the beating… I got expelled from school for two days for the excessively violent treatment of a fellow student.”
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… what do you say, son… go get some ice cream?”
By Almighty God and with honor,
Feature image created by Alejandra Sotomange/Wikimedia Commons
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